Illinois Wesleyan CCIW Tournament Preview
Written by Blake Borgardt on February 25, 2022
Image courtesy of Kodiak Creative
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — After the final game of the season ending in a victory on the road against Augustana with a final score of 70-64, the Illinois Wesleyan Titans will prepare for their first CCIW tournament game against North Central.
This season provides a unique historic opportunity for the Titans. No IWU team has ever won the CCIW conference title in the regular season, and then gone on to also win the CCIW tournament in the postseason.
The Titans come into the tournament as defending CCIW tournament champions, as they prevailed in the 2021 championship game against Wheaton with a final score of 71-58. If the Titans are able to make it there and win once again, they would be the first team since Augustana in 2015-2016 to win back-to-back CCIW championships.
IWU comes into the match against North Central, having swept their two game series with the Cardinals in the regular season. Over those two games the Titans averaged nearly 76 points a contest, and won by an average of 19 points. That 19 point scoring margin is a whole 10 points larger than the team’s scoring margin this season.
These teams will be quite familiar with each other’s play style, as North Central faced off with the Titans in the Shirk Center just last week.
A matchup the Titans will look to exploit is with offensive focal point Matt Leritz, who averaged just under a double-double this season with 18 points and 9.6 rebounds a night. He’ll look to make his living in the paint against a North Central team who consistently puts out small-ball rotations on the floor frequently.
Normally as teams go on in the season, a dip in production tends to be the trend due to prolonged fatigue. The case with the Titans however is completely contrary to the popular belief. The last time these two teams faced off in December, the Titans shot just under 38% from the three-point line, compared to the three-point percentage of last weeks game where they shot 44% from three.
But while the Titans have gotten remarkably better in some facets, the Cardinals have as well. They were able to cut their turnovers down quite a bit in last week’s game. This took away around 10 total offensive possessions the Titans were awarded in their first matchup. This showed on the scoreboard in favor of the Cardinals, as they posted 17 points more than their point total in the previous meeting.
One player who could look to change the turnover tide in favor of the Titans is guard Peter Lambesis, who leads the team in steals this season with 36. Lambesis was also the leading scorer for the Titans in the first meet between the two teams.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. tonight in the Shirk Center in Bloomington. After the tournament this weekend, the Titans will find out what seed they will be in the NCAA Tournament.